As my role as a staff and facility manager for the past number of years I have had a number of times when I have been needed to help my staff deal with emotional responses in the realm of client service. My staff would often tell me that they were stunned at how polite (without condescending sounding) I was to clients in email – even when faced with rudeness or ignorance or even downright stupidity; let’s be honest, the customer is NOT always right. They talked about how nothing ever ruffled my feathers. How no matter what, my email replies were so professional and well thought out – devoid of emotional responses.
I had one staff in particular who had a nasty habit of typing heated and emotional responses… filled with sarcasm and blatant rudeness. She would fire them off in a fury then come to me apologizing; usually a few minutes after she did it. Her anger would be cooling off and she would realize how unprofessional her response had been and she would regret having sent it. But here’s the key… she never regretted WHAT she said, just that she had sent it.
That’s the clincher here… and how I explained to her how I kept it together. The fact was that I was just as reactive as she was… just as fired up and inflamed at times. But that I had developed a safeguard.
Having grown up with a wicked temper, I realized in my early teens that I needed to do something to control it and vent it safely. After the second hole in the all that I kicked the idea took hold. So I worked hard to find ways to vent. Learning to recognize when I need to walk away if I am unable to control my emotions was a big step for me. Not running away, but knowing when to step back and “walk it off”. Being able to move physically allows me to process the emotions and move them through me… in a more healthy way. Most of the time.
With work I developed a similar response. Although on the surface different, it works the same way. When I would walk as a teen I would say all the things I wanted to scream out inside my head. By the time I made it back, two things had happened. One; I had realized that my responses were irrational and emotional and I was over them and could move on , or , two; I had at least calmed down enough and organized my thoughts enough that I could now calmly and rationally have whatever discussion was needed without my actions being controlled by my temper.
So my work response was simple. When faced with a situation via email that triggered a temper response I would open a new email and type… whatever response came to mind and no matter how vile and angry and unprofessional … just let it all out. Purely emotionally driven and as fast and unbridled as it could be. My fingers would fly and I would have tunnel vision sometimes even and it would all come out. When done, I would read it over… usually at least a couple of times since I was upset and I tend to skim when I’m reading angry. Then I would take a deep breath and hit… delete. Not “send”. The first and most important rule is to never, ever, type a name into the “To” field. Even if you know you have no intention of sending it, the automatic pinkie finger whack on “enter” is too risky … and there really is no recall no matter what anyone tell you ;). Then you type the real email and all is good; or at least better than it would have been.
With my staff, she said she would try that option and the very next day she called me from a site she was at and said that she needed to send me an email that she had typed to a client who was driving her batty. She just could not have it just be deleted… she needed it to be read – maybe not by him, but by someone. After that, it became a thing… she would vent and type and send it to me instead of the recipient. It worked great.. she got it out of her system, the client was none the wiser, and I always got some giggles. Those emails were quite something 🙂
I’ve extrapolated the same working theory lately to relationships.
There are some emotions and issues that come up when dealing with relationships that are just better served when you process them solo. I’m not talking about issues that need to be dealt with or else the relationship is in danger of a lack of communication but rather, emotional responses that are purely personal and driven by fears or insecurities that just need to be dealt with alone. These are the things that come up again and again and that, when they do, are the same over and over. At a certain point I realized that these are MY emotional responses and that it serves no purpose to voice them to my partners when the reality is that they are mine to accept and deal with and move through.
I do need sometimes to say that I am needing time to just be with what is going on inside my head and heart and that is ok. Often I will write out a letter or email to the person explaining my hurt or my upset, being brutally raw and open and giving voice to every fear and insecurity that is driving my turmoil. I will read it over and see that no purpose is served in sending it. That these emotions are mine… not theirs to assuage or calm. So I delete. I go for a walk or run or have a nap… and process… and come back having managed the floodgates, so to speak.